Report: Colorado craft beer could be hurt by cannabis sales

The craft beer markets in Colorado, Oregon and Washington are reportedly underperforming the rest of the nation.
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Drinking beers. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) beer; nightlife; kevinjbeaty; bars; denverite; denver; colorado;

Drinking beers. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The craft beer markets in Colorado, Oregon and Washington — three states with legal marijuana sales — are underperforming the rest of the nation, according to a report released Tuesday.

It's not just small and independent brewers are underperforming in what the report calls "adult use cannabis markets." There are "clear signs" that cannabis is weighing on the overall beer industry, according to the research from Cowen and Co.

Those signs include the fact that the volume of beer sold in the Denver metro, Oregon and Washington fell in 2016 by about 2 percent while the overall U.S. beer market grew by about half a percent.

"The key drag to overall craft beer volumes in these adult use markets looks to be in Denver where craft beer volumes are down over 5 percent year to date," the report states.

Cowen used scan and point-of-sales data from The Nielsen Co. for the report. The data supports an earlier claim from Cowen that the increased use of cannabis presents a risk to the alcohol industry.

In Colorado, 2011-'12 was the first time that more adults reported recent marijuana use than alcohol use, according to the report. Since then, marijuana use has reportedly continued to climb while drinking dipped.

A recently released study by the Denver-based Marijuana Policy Group shows Colorado’s still budding cannabis industry is already worth more than the much-celebrated craft beer industry. But Brewers Association economist Bart Watson questions whether cannabis sales have directly hurt beer sales.

He told The Cannabist, “I would agree that marijuana has the potential in the long run to factor into overall beverage alcohol sales, but I think it’s too early to draw comparisons.”

Beer sales in Colorado were up 1.1 percent in from July 2014 to June 2015, liquor was up 3 percent, and wine 1.3 percent. Legal sales of recreational marijuana started in 2014.

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